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volution were gradually perishing, the glory attached to their victorious arms consoled the nation in general. If enslaved, they were led out to battle, and their chaios were wreathed with laurel.
The opposition between the French and German character had remained as strongly pronounced, as in the first periods of their history, Tacitus describes the ancient Germans as worshipping the Supreme Being in the deep silence of the forests, and disdaining all human emblems of the Divinity,—while the Gauls are represented by Cæsar as a gay and superstitious people, governed by fanatical priests, and adoring God in temples, under the form of images.
• Upon the small surface of our little Europe,' says M. de Villers, Nature, in one of her caprices, has taken pleasure in bringing together by the boundaries of their territory two nations, which she has placed by their genius and character at the two extremities of ihe intellectual line, which it is given to man to traverse. These are the French and the Germans. Though some shades of resemblance are cominon to both in the present modification of the European character, they offer in their general ideas, and in the views which they take of life, such contradictions, and such total opposition, that it appears as if all means of understanding one another were impracticable, and all efforts to do so, superfluous.'
He goes on to explain the causes of this difference, by the ingenious but fanciful theory adopted by a modern school of philosophy, to account for the different organization of plants and animals, which it refers to the combined action of the centrifugal and centripetal forces. According to this theory, the plant is a portion of the centrifugal, planetary or terrestrial force, attracted externally, and retained there by centripetal, astral or solar forces. The animal, on the contrary, is a portion of solar force, surprised and enveloped by a terrestrial one,-a spark of Divinity immured in clay.
According to M. de Villers, the solar force has in the French nature been equally combined with or spread through the terrestrial element, whence arise the irritability and mobility of the whole mass, its exquisite powers of perception, and the vivacity of its communications with the external world ;-while in the German nature, the celestial fire is condensed into one pure flame, burning in the intellectual sanctuary. Hence the German is less strongly attracted by objects affecting the senses, but is
capableof an internal strength of meditation, that occasions his intellectual irritability to be greater, and gives him a totally different sphere of enjoyment.
Solitude does not suit a Frenchman, even in sorrow. His disposition is sociable, and he must have some one to whom he may recount his griefs, and who may admire the philosophy with which he supports them. The woods and the rocks are not fitting echoes for a bon-mot or an epigram. He prefers a city life, with agreeable companions, to whom he may lalk of the charms of solitary meditation. Madame de Stael in her lively description of the fête of Interlaken, observes that she met various parties of Parisian clégans in the streets of Unterseen, listening to the roaring of the waterfalls in the Swiss valleys, and endeavoring to secure sufficient portion of ennui amongst the mountains, to enable them to return with a fresh zest to the gaieties of Paris.
The Germans live in a world of their own, which consoles them for the bleak world that environs them, as well as for the nullity of their political existence. One of their most distinguished writers remarks, that the English have the empire of the sea, the French of the earth, and the Germans of the air.'
In their ardent de re to see nature restored to her moral rights, the Germans were carried too far; and while the French materialized mind, they spiritualized matter. Thus, while one of these schools of philosophy renders us unworthy of heaven, the other unfits us for earth. But the German philosophy at least is the faithful ally of religion, while in France they stand at opposite sides of the barrier, like rival knights prepared for inortal encounter.
It required all the genius of Madame de Staël and all the celebrity attached to her name, to obtain even a patient hearing from the French public, when she undertook to unveil to them the riches of German literature, and the superiority of German philosophy. It required a grace and tact peculiar to herself, to make her way through a host of difficulties; and we cannot but admire the clearness with which she penetrates the German character, apparently impenetrable to a French understanding.
It may be remarked, that in describing shades of character, in seizing with tact and clearness the foibles and follies of the individuals composing society, in drawing particular portraits, many female writers, such as Miss Edgeworth, and Madame de Sevigné, have equalled, perhaps surpassed Madame de Staël, but in her power of considering en masse the character not only of one nation, but of the most opposite nations,-in taking a philosophic and general view of the state of society, and of the remote causes of present events, she is unequalled by any writer of her own sex, in any age or country. She did not glide with the current, nor fall in with the opinions of the day. She dared to judge independently, and seems to 'have raised herself to an eminence from which she could view with a calm, unprejudiced, penetrating, and yet kindly eye, the great conflicts which were taking place in the field of life. Thus, as Creech says, in his translation of Lucretius,
• But above all, 't is pleasantest to get
How poor mistaken mortals wandering go.' It was this faculty, so rare in a female writer, which enabled Madame de Staël to appreciate the virtues of the German character, without being blinded to the defects either of their philosophy, literature, or institutions. It is true, however, that the character of the nation assimilated much more closely with her own, than that of her countrymen, and that the principles which she found established in Germany, perfectly coincided with her own previous views. There, genius was hailed as a heaven-born gift
. No trammels were imposed upon imagination,-no drag-chains upon feeling,—no limits marked, up to which thought might go, but no farther. The empire of society being unknown, ridicule was a pointless weapon.
Madame de Staël now endeavored to show the benefits of this intellectual freedom, as she had before proclaimed the blessings of political liberty. Her description of the first aspect of Germany, of her sensations of sadness on experiencing the severity of a sombre climate, and of the singular effect of music on a dark winter morning as she passed along the snowcovered streets, is equally striking and natural. Her sketches of German literature, of the spirit of society and government in the different Germian states,—and of the dullness of conversation, are drawn with a masterly hand. The Germans received
her criticisms with good-will,—they had indeed reason to be more flattered than offended. The French listened to them with a feeling of wounded vanity.
Being personally acquainted with the great founders of a literature still in its infancy, she was well qualified to give the particular description of the German authors, which occupies the second portion of her work; yet we are astonished to see how effectively, in her translations from their dramatic writers, she is able to transfer the original spirit of the author, without lessening the grace of her language; especially the deep, bold and singular genius of Goëthe, whose eccentric sallies, so essentially German, sometimes remind us of the wildest strains in the music of Weber. Madame de Staël's admiration for Schiller was unbounded, especially for his perfect simplicity of character, which, when united with transcendent genius, seems to offer the nearest approach to a divine nature.
Her observations on the extreme difficulty which French dramatic writers have to encounter, and on the unfavorable effect which the severity of the laws imposed upon the drama, and the rigid attention to classical form, must produce upon strong and poetic imaginations, are well worthy of consideration, and her prophecy, that romance will finally become the only theatre for the development of strong emotion, appears gradually to approach its fulólment.
In entering on philosophical discussion, in a work of this general nature, it was a difficult matter for Madame de Stael to find the right medium between the pedantry on the one hand, which would have disgusted the mass of general readers, and the superficial views on the other, which would have excited the contempt of the learned. The subject of abstract metaphysics was little suited to the habits of Parisian literature, and it would have been an equally difficult task to induce the experimentalists of the Institute to abandon their physics, and the brilliant literary assemblies of the French capital to commence the study of pure reason or transcendental æsthetics.
As her object was to give a general idea of German philosophy, and rather to point out the way, than to explain the localities of the territory, she has not carried her researches into any great detail; nor entered upon discussions, which would have involved herself and her readers in an endless Jabyrinth. She has preferred clearness to the love of displaying her knowledge, and has avoided as much as possible the use of technical and scientific terms.-Among the most forcible passages of this work, is the indignant refutation of the doctrine of morality founded upon personal interest.
But amidst a thousand beauties whieh cannot within our present limits be even enumerated, it is impossible to pass over the latter part which treats of religion and enthusiasm ; and which, had the author's fame rested on no other ground, would have descended to posterity as a fragment of the most splendid poetical genius. She seems,' says a German critic, to have written it with her soul. Never was poetry spoken of with more poetry, or religion and enthusiasm with a more religious enthusiasm.' She takes infinite care to draw a strict line of demarcation between enthusiasm and fanaticism; between the most sublime of human feelings, and the foolish exaltation of a tête montée.
It is certain that no human sentiment, perhaps no vice, has occasioned greater alarm than enthusiasm. In the days of Cervantes, such strictures might have been necessary, but surely this is not the period in which we need to dread its progress. The day of romance has long since gone by. That of machinery has succeeded, of steam-boats, rail-roads, and all those inventions by which human talent has mastered the elements, and rendered the uncertain sure. Every thing has become real and tangible. Man has laid the ghosts
He has conquered distance, and even time itself. He has brought the extremities of the globe into contact, boldly penetrated the mysterious depths of the ocean, and ventured into the regions of the air with as much security, as the timid navigators of old performed their voyages along the sea-coast. Wealth has become the object of universal pursuit. Mammon is the shrine at which every knee is bowed ; and golden calves are worshipped, though not in the wilderness. Justice, as she holds aloft her scales, measures the merits of mortals by the weight of their money-bags. In this sense, the age of gold may be said to have returned. That of chiva alry is well nigh forgotten,--and Burke, were he now living, could imagine no nobler effort of gallantry than ten thousand purses leaping from the pockets of their respective owners.
Nothing is more easy than to throw ridicule upon enthusiasm, chiefly because its counterfeit so often passes current ;-but the base coin may be detected by its very brilliancy, while VOL. XXXVII.-NO. 80.
of past ages.